2 Epiphany, January 13
The word love, although abused by overuse and sentimentality, remains profoundly significant for Christian faith. Replacing it with the New Testament agape or charity may give it a scholastic sound, but in the end love is the English word we need to speak of God’s relationship with created things.
God’s very being is love. God is begetting love, responsive love, and love’s eternal flow. God is one in a triune community of love. Before the heavens and earth were made, God is love. God’s love is full and sufficient, for he has it completely and without defect. In a sense, God’s inner life of love is unifying, but without any suggestion of discord. Try these words of Thomas Aquinas and think slowly: “To a great extent love is called a unitive power in God, but without composition; because that good which God wants for himself is none other than himself who is good through his own essence” (Summa Theologiae I.q20.a1.ad3). God is sheer and absolute love, begetting without loss, responding in freedom, shared in perennial exchange.
God is love without beginning and without end. Creation begins, though it begins from that same eternal love that God is. “The love of God,” Aquinas says, “is pouring and creating goodness into all things” (I.q20.a2). There is, we dare to day, something of God in all things, for God, who is the cause of all things, has through the abundance of his loving goodness and his providence gone outside himself to every existing thing. God is, and God is love. God creates for love and cannot hate anything he has made.
Listen to love: “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isa. 43:1). “I will be with you, I am your Savior, you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you” (Isa. 43:2-4). This same love comes to the Church and all the baptized as the gift of the Holy Spirit. What happened to Jesus happens to us. “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:21-22). Indeed, as the prologue of John’s Gospel states, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (1:12-13). The very love with which the Father loves the Son is the love God lavishes on us in his Son. We are in Christ; we are branches of the vine; we are members of his body.
Because the love of God in Christ that has been poured into our hearts is nothing less than God, this love can and will feel, though not always, like an overwhelming power. God’s love is an overwhelming goodness that sustains all things as they ought to be, which purges and strips away sin, the flesh, and the devil. So, God is holy splendor, thunder, power, and majesty. God makes the trees tremble and rattles the earth. God shakes the wilderness. All say of God, “Glory, Glory, Glory!” (Ps. 29). God breaks into our world. God disrupts our lives insofar as we do not yet know that he is our life.
When we most deeply know God, we know ourselves loved by him.
Look It Up
Read Isaiah 43:1-7.
Think About It
The power of love in you.